A partisan row over a $1.2 billion infrastructure deal came into the public eye on Monday with new feuds and former President Trump blaring his own grenade urging Republicans to halt talks altogether.
The standoff prompted Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to warn that further delays would mean the Senate would remain in session until the August recess as he called on both parties to do something good for the American people.
“We have reached a critical moment,” he said.
The bipartisan group of senators has had nearly five weeks of negotiations since they first announced an agreement with President Biden.
“It’s time for everyone to say ‘yes’ and produce an outcome for the American people.”
He was speaking on the Senate floor a day after Democrats and the White House presented a new offer to Republicans aimed at addressing unresolved issues, including water financing, broadband, and highways and bridges.
But the response was short and sharp after Democrats informed that Senator Mitt Romney, one of the negotiators, had dropped a deal on water financing and lead pollution.
“This is ridiculously inaccurate,” Romney’s office said in a statement.
As the White House’s own website shows, the deal on water involved $55 billion in new spending. After days of radio silence, Schumer now wants $70 billion. This is a direct violation of the two-party agreement.”
Time is running out for Senate Leader Chuck Schumer to achieve his goal of passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the August recess. Monday brought new gloom as tensions erupted in public and former President Trump urged Republicans to suspend negotiations
Former President Trump threw a grenade into the dispute, told Republican senators they were being “beastly” by Democrats and urged them to forget about the talks until after next year’s midterms, when they’ll be in a better bargaining position
Trump condemned the way Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell conducted the negotiations. “Mitch McConnell and his small band of RINOs would like nothing more than to make a deal at any cost to prove that he can work with the radical left Democrats,” he said.
Winning bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill is critical to the White House’s hopes of pushing through a larger $3.5 billion spending package without Republican votes. On Monday, Biden said he was ‘optimistic’ about reaching a deal
Asked about the chances of a compromise, President Biden told reporters, “I’m always optimistic.”
Yet time is ticking away after more than a month of negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he wants the bill passed before the August recess, which starts in two weeks.
But he suffered a setback last week when Republicans voted against taking a major procedural step because the bill had yet to be written.
And the disputes came into the public eye on Monday.
Former President Trump weighed in with a statement saying Republican senators were getting “beastly.”
He accused Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and other “name-only Republicans” of trying to make a deal at all costs, and urged the party to wait until they regain the majority before to negotiate.
“It’s so important to him that he agrees to almost everything,” he said.
“Don’t do the infrastructure deal, wait until we have good election results in 2022 or otherwise, and regain a strong negotiating position.”
“Republicans, don’t let the radical left play you weak fools and losers.”
Schumer hit back at his words, saying they were a recipe for stalemate.
“We now have an opportunity to actually do something good for the American people,” he said.
“Will our Republican colleagues heed the absurd demands of the disgraced former president and his media allies, or will they get a good two-pronged deal across the finish line?
Republican senators must ignore former President Trump if we are ever going to make progress for the American people.
The White House had hoped that a bipartisan infrastructure plan could pass the House and Senate, leaving it free to use Congress’s appeasement mechanism to fund a $3.5 trillion expansion in health care, education, green energy and paid leave without pushing Republican support.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a fight was to be expected and the staff worked all weekend to close a deal.
“The president has been working on the phone all weekend and still is,” she said during the daily White House briefing.
“We are encouraged when we have reached the final issues to be worked out, and we are confident in the way forward.”
But she also admitted that “time is not endless.”
Senate Democrats are reportedly considering merging the two proposals if the bipartisan bill fails.
Axios reported last week that they are considering adding the nearly $600 billion in spending already agreed upon by Republicans to the larger package.
However, it is unclear whether moderate Democratic senators, such as Joe Manchin, would support such a proposal.
Rising prices have heightened concerns that Biden’s spending plans could fuel inflation further.